Dissertation

My dissertation is titled “Visiting while Latina/o: An Intersectional Analysis of the Experiences of Subjectivity among Latina/o Visitors to Encyclopedic Art Museums.”

I have posted an abstract of the dissertation below. As always, feel free to contact me to discuss my findings.


U.S. art museums have a visitor population that is whiter, more affluent, and better educated than the national average (Farrell & Medvedeva, 2010). Despite decades of efforts by museums to promote visitor inclusion, gains have been slow and studies of visitor experience have focused on visitor motivations or learning styles, seldom considering visitor race or ethnicity. As such, the intersection of race, ethnicity, and museum visitor experience of subjectivity remains undertheorized within museum studies. The U.S. encyclopedic art museum–an institution that purports to show a comprehensive view of art history–is a rich site for investigation of this intersection because of its historic investment in presenting a Eurocentric narrative of national history in relation to racialized others (Duncan, 1995; Davalos, 2001). Grounded in the researcher’s personal experiences of alienation and belonging within encyclopedic art museums, as well as in the scholarship of other Latinas (Davalos, 2001; Gaspar de Alba, 1998; Anzaldúa, 1998), this research is guided by the question: What are Latina/o visitors’ experiences of their subjectivity, in the context of encyclopedic art museums? Furthermore, how do Latina/o visitors enact belonging within encyclopedic art museums?

The dissertation draws on critical theorization of Latinidad in the U.S. as well as heuristics, a qualitative methodology developed within social psychology, to investigate adult Latina/o visitors’ experiences of subjectivity in encyclopedic art museums. Data generated through 2-4 interviews with 13 participants was inductively analyzed for its discussion of pan-Latinidad v. national identification, racial formation in the U.S., and the performance of diversity among Latina/o visitors and the museum. This data furthers the theorization of Latinidad, as Latina/os from varied backgrounds discuss what the idea means to them in the practice of museum visitation. In providing the first representation of the subjectivity of Latina/o visitors as experienced in encyclopedic art museums, this research will support museums’ attempts to make epistemological and material commitments to the inclusion of their diverse Latina/o visitors. Finally, the analysis of strategies for belonging enacted by visitors contributes to understanding of how Latina/os figure themselves within representations of national U.S. heritage.


References

Anzaldúa, G. (1998). Chicana artists: Exploring Nepantla, el lugar de la frontera. In Darder, A. & Torres, R.D. (Eds.), The Latino studies reader (pp.163-169). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Davalos, K.M. (2001). Exhibiting Mestizaje: Mexican (American) Museums in the Diaspora. Santa Fe: University of New Mexico.

Duncan, C. (2004). Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums. London and New York City, NY: Routledge.

Farrell, B., & Medvedeva, M. (2010). Demographic transformation and the future of museums. Washington, D.C.: The AAM Press.

Gaspar de Alba, A. (1998). Chicano art inside/outside the master’s house: Cultural politics and the CARA exhibition. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

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